How to Reduce Your Out of Control TBR

post-life of a book nerd2

Every book nerd knows the To Be Read or TBR list is our constant friend and enemy. It’s a great way to keep track of everything we want to read but it can also be overwhelming when we’re looking at lists with hundreds, or maybe thousands, of books on it. The most obvious way to reduce that out of control TBR list would be to read the books on it, but we all know that’s sometimes a harder goal than it seems.

Last year I was looking for a book to read, staring at my 500+ TBR and I was experiencing actual anxiety over how I would ever read all those book and how could I possibly pick the next one to read when there were so many options! I know there are other readers out there who have experienced the same thing. Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones that thrives off a massive list. But I’m not, so I needed to fix this! My answer to an out of control TBR was a massive purging of titles that left me with about 150 books on my TBR and I’ve promised myself that it has to stay below 200 OR ELSE.

So how did I do this massive purge, you ask? Let me share some tips!

Do it in stages. I didn’t just sit down and clear out my whole list in an hour. Instead I focused on individual parameters (explained below) and just did them one at a time. I would get rid of some books and then a few days later, I’d get rid of more. This really helped me get clarity and perspective on the TBR books and it made it much easier to part with them. If you can do it all in one sitting, then more power to you, but don’t force it if it’s not working.

Start with the obvious. We all know we have books on our TBR that we think we should read but know we’ll never actually read. Start by getting rid of the books that clearly don’t belong. You’ll have to be honest with yourself here but really focus in on whether you’ll actually read it. The good thing here is that you can always come back to that book if it was really meant to be. But if you totally forget it in a year or two then if obviously didn’t have your attention.

Cut the longest lasting. If you’re keeping your TBR on Goodreads or another site that includes the date you added a book, then this is really easy. Sort your TBR by the date you added them, with the oldest seen first. How long have those titles been on there? 1 year? 2 years? 5 years?! If it’s been that long, are you really going to read it? I was able to purge several books that had been on my TBR for well over 5 years.

Narrow down author multiples. This was a big factor in reducing my TBR and it’s also a cheat because you’re not saying you won’t read those books, you’re just narrowing down choices. So let’s say you’ve never read the author Nora Roberts and you have 10 of her books on your TBR. Look through the titles and pick the ONE you want to read the most. Keep that one and get rid of the rest. If you read that one title and you love it then you can go back and add more by the author, but if you don’t like it then you can just move on. This also helps with selecting your next book because you’ve narrowed your options considerably.

Gauge your interest. This was my last step to purging my TBR because it takes more time and also relies on making decisions about interest which can be challenging. I went through my list and some titles I knew exactly what they were about and I was excited to read them. But some titles I couldn’t even remember a single thing from the back cover blurb. So while I went through the list, anytime I came across one I couldn’t remember, I would look at the description and ask myself, “How interested are you in reading this?” If I was excited about the description then it got to stay. But if I was only mildly interested or downright not interested at all, then it had to go.

After going through all these steps I had significantly shrunk my TBR (down to 150 books!) and I also felt so much better. Like an actual weight had been lifted off my shoulders knowing that the books left on my TBR were books that actually, really, really wanted to read. And if by some miracle, I manage to read everything on my TBR, then I can go hunt up those books I was only mildly interested in. Though I have to admit now that they’re gone, I don’t know why I had them on there to begin with.

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What techniques have you used to reduce your TBR?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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